I graduated from college right around the time that the American economic system collapsed into a steaming pile of cutbacks, job insecurity, and underemployment. My first job after college was slinging cupcakes part-time at a bakery counter in Ann Arbor. For just above minimum wage, I boxed up birthday cakes, scooped gelato, and mopped the floor. It was not glamorous (I spent an inordinate amount of time scraping stuff off of stuff). And it was not what I imagined I would do with my life. I was homesick, had no money, and came home smelling like a weird combination of marshmallows and bleach every night.
But in between helping customers, I liked to sneak back into the kitchen and try my hand at tempering chocolate, assembling and decorating cakes, and baking tender little shortbread cookies. And you know what? I loved it. Eventually I was reassigned to the kitchen (really, it was better for everyone — customer service was never my strong suit…) and I spent the better part of two years baking, decorating, tempering, creating, and learning from far more talented pastry chefs than I could ever hope to be.
I learned how to perfectly frost a cake without applying a crumb coat. I learned how to make pastry cream for beautiful fruit tarts and chocolate eclairs. I learned how to temper and work with chocolate. And eventually I went to graduate school, left the bakery, and started working in the field of student affairs, a career that I absolutely 100% love.
But before all that, I worked in a bakery and learned how to make homemade peppermint patties, which is what I’m sharing today.
I’m sharing this recipe for Peppermint Patties with a caveat. This recipe is exceedingly simple, if you are comfortable with tempering chocolate. If not, there’s no time like the present to learn a new skill!
What does it mean to temper chocolate? Basically, there are a few different kinds of fatty acids found in chocolate and they each melt at different temperatures. To get a chocolate that is smooth and has a good “snap” to it, you need to make sure that the chocolate, when melted, hits a few different temperatures in order to engage all the fatty acids into forming a stable structure.To do this up proper, you will need either a crazy expensive Chocolate Tempering Machine (handy but completely impractical) OR a glass bowl, a reliable thermometer, and a microwave. Because I am deeply annoyed by single use kitchen tools (a post for another day), I’ve opted for the microwave method. I usually prefer to temper chocolate on the stove top over a double boiler, but the microwave method is really nice because there’s no water involved. The first rule of tempering chocolate is that water is a no-go. If a drop of water comes into contact with your chocolate, it’s ruined. I’m not being dramatic. It will turn white, streaky, and grainy. It will not taste good.When tempering chocolate, it is important that you start with real, good quality chocolate. The ingredient list should have cocoa butter in it and absolutely no vegetable oil/fat. I find that its much easier to temper at least a pound of chocolate, which is what I’ve called for here. You probably won’t use the whole pound, but it’s helpful to have more than you need so you aren’t scraping the bottom of the bowl trying to get the last few patties dipped. Plus, you can always pour any remaining chocolate out onto a sheet of parchment paper. It’ll harden into a disk that you can then melt and use (or eat) later.One final note is that I used, and greatly prefer, dark chocolate in this recipe. If you want to use milk chocolate, note that the temperatures for tempering the chocolate will be slightly different. Milk chocolate is a bit more sensitive to heat.
One final, final note is that if you are intimidated by tempering chocolate or simply don’t have the time to spare, you can use Chocolate Melting Wafers and skip it. Easier, but not quite as good.
- 12 tablespoons of butter, room temperature
- 5-6 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon peppermint extract
- 16 ounces dark chocolate
- In a mixer, combine the butter, powdered sugar, and extract on the lowest speed. As the powdered sugar begins to incorporate, you can turn the speed up a notch or so. Mix for about three minutes or until the mixture looks crumbly (see photo above) but is the consistency of play-doh when you squeeze some together in your hands. It should be pliable, but will hold its shape quite well once molded.
- Sprinkle a little bit of powdered sugar on a clean surface. Divide the mixture in half and roll into two separate logs, each about a foot long and just shy of two inches in diameter. With a very sharp knife, cut each log into ½ inch thick disks. You may need to reform a few of them with your hands, but they should mostly keep their round shape.
- To temper the chocolate, chop or grate the chocolate into small pieces. Place roughly 75% of the chocolate (it doesn't need to be exact) in a microwave safe container (I like to use a glass bowl). Microwave the chocolate uncovered at 50% power for one minute at a time, stirring with a plastic spatula in between, until almost melted. It took me 4 minutes total to mostly melt the chocolate. It may take a few more or a few less minutes depending on the power of your microwave. When the chocolate is mostly melted but you still have a few solid pieces, stop microwaving and stir gently with the spatula until the chocolate has melted.
- At this point, use your thermometer to take the temperature of the chocolate. It should be around 115 degrees. You want to be careful not to overheat your chocolate and you might want to take its temperature in between microwave sessions to ensure that it doesn't ever go above 120 degrees. If your chocolate gets too hot, it "seizes" and isn't generally recoverable.
- When your chocolate is melted and around 115 degrees, add a handful of the reserved chocolate, or "seed", to the melted chocolate, stirring until completely melted. Repeat until the reserved chocolate is all incorporated. This process usually takes me around 15 minutes. Once all the seed chocolate has been incorporated, take the temperature of the chocolate again. It should be around 88 degrees. Your chocolate, at this point, is tempered and you can begin working with it, as described below. If it is too warm, keep stirring until it comes down to 88 degrees.
- I find it easiest to use my hand to dip these patties. Use your non-dominant hand to place a patty on top of the chocolate. Gently push the patty just under the surface of the chocolate with the index finger of your dominant hand. Then using your thumb on the underside of the patty and index finger on top, gently pinch the patty and pull it out of the chocolate. Let some of the excess chocolate drop off and lay the patty on a piece of parchment paper. There will be a white spot where you pinched the patty. To cover it up (and put a pretty design on each patty), use your chocolate-y index finger to gently draw a swirl in the chocolate on the top of the patty, starting from the outside edge and working your way in. Repeat until you've dipped every patty.
- Depending on how fast you're able to work, you may need to reheat your chocolate to keep it around 88 degrees. If you feel the chocolate starting to stiffen near the sides of the bowl, it's time to pop it in the microwave, on 50% power, for 30 seconds at a time until it's reached 88 degrees.